Creating momentum – with rest

As you can see in the picture I almost reached my goal this week of getting up in the morning of every workday before 7 am, which I defined in my last post. The one failure I had this week even happened on the first day, where I got up at 7 but could not help myself from snoozing for 15 more minutes. At that point I could have ended my little endeavor since I already failed my goal. And in the past I would have done this more often than being persistent like this week. Usually I would have snoozed until 8 or even later, since I already slept too long. And what are a few minutes more? I have to say that through posting my goal for this week in my last post I tried to keep the failure to a minimum and make it better in the coming days.

Having to write the time in big numbers on a whiteboard had an impact on my commitment, too. Much more then the times I typed this numbers into my smart-phone where only I could see them and easily hide from the typed-in times, by not opening the app where I put them. By writing the times on a whiteboard I could not escape from seeing them. Moreover, the task of having to write these numbers by hand gave me more motivation of getting up and avoiding the “painful” task of writing a bad number then I would have had if I tracked the time passively with a wrist fitness tracker or smart-phone app. So if you want to make a change like breaking the habit of sleeping in, I think it is worth a try keeping track of your results by your own handwriting. At least for me it worked well and better than the times I tried out different methods.

Okay, I got up earlier in the morning this week, but this is only half the battle. One some days I was quite tired the whole day, because I got into bed too late. Therefore I will extend my method of the previous week to also track the time I go to sleep. My aim will be to rest my brain for at least seven hours on workdays and give it some more rest on the weekend. From personnel experience, I know that seven hours are still not enough for me, but in the past it often has been around six or six and a half hours. And once again I try to maintain the strategy of taking smaller steps instead of directly aim for an optimal eight or seven and a half.

I believe that the optimal amount of sleep differs from person to person, but I always have a hard time believing people who say they need only five to six hours daily. Are they really well rested or did they forget how that feels like? Because there have been some time periods where I also had forgotten that feeling of well rest. Recently I had the luxury of experiencing it more often. And now I want to work towards having it daily. It is possible for me to get through the week with only six hours of sleep per day and you can easily make up for it on the weekend with one good eight or nine hour sleep. But on Thursdays and Fridays I don’t feel so great in this kinds of weeks. After watching this TED talk about our brain activity during sleep, I automatically imagine to walk around with a lot of garbage in my head that did not get cleared out during my sleep.

When you watch the linked talk you will probably get more suggestions of talks about how you can be more successful by simply sleeping more. There are also a lot of sleep deprivation studies out there like this one, which concludes that being sleep deprived with six or less hours a day for 14 consecutive days is as bad as staying up for two days straight. But no matter what motivation you need to take enough rest, in the end it is all about how you feel with the rest you get and I feel too damn tired during the day with only six hours of rest. So this week is about extending my last week’s endeavor and creating more momentum in changing my habits by simply resting more.

Taking Action

It has been again a long time since my last post, which I wrote almost three quarters of a year ago. I promised to write about the things I would learn in life. In these past month I read many books and articles and listened to audio books on my bicycle commute to work, but I never got to share anything of it. With all this input, I had many ideas and while I read and listened to all the wise words, a lot of things made perfect sense. I had many moments where I thought to myself: “Wow this is great! I should implement that in my life and adopt this method immediately.” But…I never made solid plan for any of this.  In the next couple of days I would read about another idea and forget about the first one. I noticed that this was going on a while ago, but then last week something happened.

Someone wrote me an e-mail and asked me about my blog and about what I promised to write about. Someone held me accountable for what I said. And in fact, I did not ever deliver any work. Now I got pushed into the right direction, challenged to once more bring up this blog and start writing. At the moment I believe that being held accountable for the things you say is one of the strongest engines to get something done (let’s consider me writing these sentences already as proof of that).  And I believe it is more powerful if that statement comes from someone who is not from your family or closest friends. At least for me the last part is true. Somehow I feel a stronger commitment in this case and I think it is because of the same reason why it is sometimes so easy to postpone a meeting with a close one (“they will surely understand my reasons”) than with someone you don’t know too well yet (“if I cancel now, they will think I am lazy/unreliable” – which I probably was over the last couple of months). So I had one week to come up with something to write about and I thought about many topics, which made it hard for me to find anything concrete. So what should my actual topic for this come-back-article be?

I chose “Taking Action”, because starting from now I plan on implementing weekly experiments on taking action. It is somewhat inspired by this TED talk (try something new for 30 days) by Matt Cutts, which I watched years ago. But I choose a much shorter time frame of 7 days, since 30 sound like a huge commitment to me at the moment. Following the mantra of “taking small steps”. The experiment for this week will be to write the time I wake up on a whiteboard that is standing in the living room. This is quite easy to do, but it is still my (last) hope that this has a big impact on something I have recently been struggling with – getting up in the morning, as many people do. I want to get up earlier to simply have more time during the day, since I can leave work much earlier and still have time for other things. Why do I choose to write it on a whiteboard? I will be more accountable, since other people will see it as well as me. And while I see it all the time, I will feel quite bad if there is a big 9 am instead of a 6 or 7 am. In order to avoid this feeling, I might be more motivated to get my legs to the ground on the next morning. My aim will be to not have a single day after 7 am during the workdays. I will let you know in my post next week of how it went.

Writing a Blog – My starting struggles

It was been a week now since my first initial two posts. Since I set out to post something every second day or so, I now feel a lot like having failed to deliver. So I thought the best way to solve my problem of not being able to post something, is to write about why I was not able to do so. This will hopefully give me further insights on the problem itself, but on the some time solve it, because at the end of it I will finally have another post. Looks like a good solution to me, so let’s start.

When one of the very few people, that I told about this blog already, asked me where my next post was I replied with excuses, that my week was too stressful with my day job and I just did not have the time to write. Well, the first one is true, I worked my ass off for a project which needed to have a first presentable solution this week. But the latter? Maybe not so much. In hindsight I would say that I just did not prioritize my writing enough and that the job was always way more important. It is only too easy for me to fall into old habits and do lots of overtime to make things work. The problem is, when I do not make it work, then I can not stop thinking about it and have trouble sleeping because I am unable to stop the thought-carousal going on in my mind. But maybe it would have been better if I took my mind off the problem for a while by focusing on this blog for a few hours. Or even just 10 – 20 minutes, which is all it takes to write about 100 words for a daily post right? And I definitely took these 10 – 20 minutes for other “very important things” too, so why was I unable to do it for this blog?

I guess the hardest obstacle was, that I had already failed the first two days, where something came up in the evening, like a visit from my brother. That of course was indeed an important thing and I am happy to having had spend time with him. But this shows the first problem: Something always comes up! So I would say we have two choices: First, prioritize brutally, so I would say to my brother I would not have time for him or, what I would prefer, do my writing at a time where the upcoming of things is most unlikely – in the morning. So here I am writing, just after waking up.

But this is possibly also just half of the truth. Apart being stressed out I think the next big problem was judgement, since I told the first few people about this blog. And I am still a little uncomfortable to put sensitive thoughts of myself out there even though after doing it the first time it felt great, even invincible. Earlier I already told you about the “Start a Blog Challenge” at Live Your Legend. I got this amazing content daily in my inbox, which I am very thankful for. Every day you get a little writing prompt with in some degree personal questions, which I was not able to answer straight away, since I am usually someone who things back and forth about a topic until stating my opinion. Moreover, with the setup up of this blog and the Sherlock Holmes theme I chose, I felt like I already had to break down everything to single detail from the start. This let me freeze a little and to a pile of writing prompts in my inbox, leaving me unable to pick the first one. So here is how I want to tackle this problem: Remind myself of being a beginner and focus on what my aim is here – to begin – and not on being a hell of a writer. Therefore I hereby challenge myself for the next week to repeat the Blog Challenge and pretend like I am getting these mails for the first time (actually got them twice already by now).

Okay, after hitting this publish button, I will really be committed to this one, which already feels quite exciting again. I have never stopped thinking about this blog, sometimes with thoughts of giving up and discard it as a stupid idea, but also sometimes with ideas bubbling up everywhere. Writing daily about the writing prompts of the blog challenge will hopefully put me in the writing habit I need and at the same time cure me to some extend of my fear of judgement and not being perfect. So I hereby claim my right as a beginner to not think about results and stop my terrible strive for perfectionism. Last but not least I want to give a big thanks again to the guys at Live Your Legend, who give this amazing content out for free and hope that now there is no way for me to chicken out next week and finally getting started for real.

Why I called this thesherlockblog.com

This will be another post to get me accustomed to writing or writing something that other people would be able to read. I want to explain a little why I chose this name for the Blog and a little more what I am trying to do here. First of all I initially meant to name this Blog simply “sherlockblog.com”, but this domain was already taken by some company I think which makes money by blocking domain names and then selling it off without ever doing anything with it. The “sherlockblog.com” domain is for sale for 2.695 $ at the time of writing, which seems a little bit over my budget. So that’s the reason I put up a “the” before the name. Gladly that company did not think about taking this one too.

But why associate my Blog with one of the greatest fictional detectives who ever was imagined. It sounds a bit presumptuous and bold when I think of it that way, but we will see if I will be able to apply some of his methods here. You never know until you try right? But first, lets talk about my “relationship” with Sherlock.

To be honest I was never a big fan of Sherlock Holmes until recently. I have never read any of the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and only have watched a few Holmes movies. He always seemed to be some super smart superhero like any other with special abilities to solve crimes. But then I read the book “Mastermind” by Maria Konnikova. It’s about “How to think like Sherlock Holmes” and this turned me into a huge fan of the detective. In the book the detective’s methods are analysed in detail with a lot of psychological background from today and many references to the original Sherlock Holmes stories. The author excerpts the paragraphs where Holmes teaches Watson, or us, the reader, his methods. I am planning to write a full book review on this one. Actually I have been planning on doing that since January, the time I finished the book. Now I started to read the originals, always on the lookout for any insights the great Sherlock Holmes is willing to share with Watson. That in itself makes the read kind of like a little detective game which I take much pleasure in. I also started to watch a series called “Elementary” with Sherlock Holmes in today’s time and Dr. Watson being a woman. I can only recommend everything from the above to anyone who comes across reading this.

Now that we have covered how I got to be obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, back to my Blog. The idea naming my Blog after him came only last Thursday, so about four days ago. Because it made much sense to me, this is maybe why I finally managed to put it up. I had a lot of ideas before like making the blog about methods from my field software engineering applied to real life, but then I struggled again with coming up with an awesome name and the fear of actually not being able to constantly write about such particular topic. So the idea of the Sherlock Blog came to me on this Thursday, after a rough work day, where I had not accomplished what I wanted to. And the main reason was that I lacked enough experience and background information on the task that I was assigned to. I ended up asking myself what Sherlock Holmes would do or would have done even before being assigned to a difficult task. He would definitely have done a huge amount of leg work, maybe pulling all-nighters and reading on every source about the topic that he could get it hands on until he would have understood the nature of the problem. Of course this is probably not a healthy lifestyle with way to much sleep deprivation, but doing some research on the background of the problem in order to understand it better sounds pretty legit. Instead I was trying to solve it with what I already knew (which was not enough in this case) and tried guessing solutions, hoping that they would work, so I could move on to the next task. In my field, this is often called “programming by coincidence”.

At the end of the day I was very unhappy with my way of tackling this problem and solemnly vowed to myself to change this in the future. This mixed with the ever existing desire to start a blog somehow made it pretty obvious of what I had to do now. Start a blog associated with Sherlock Holmes, dissect my problems or things that interest me to little pieces and state it to other people. Like my favorite  Holmes quote says “Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person”. Other aspects that I like about choosing this name is that it gives me a theme or voice to talk through, like Maria Konnikova often does in her book with letting Holmes or Watson speak and the fact that this does not bind me to any topics, so that I can write about really almost everything that comes to my mind. As Holmes often investigated in many fields which seem not very close related with solving crimes at first sight, but in the end give him the crucial edge over his fellow detectives. For me it will not be about solving crimes, but solving my life’s problems and I am willing to investigate in anything that sounds promising to be useful some day.

What let me to start this blog

I have had this idea of starting a blog and writing habit for a while now. I do not remember what thought train let me to wanting to investigate my life more, I only remember that I was quite unhappy with my life and ended up reading this book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg among others in order to change something. The ideas in the book, how the brain works and how we can leverage it’s powers to our advantage really got me thrilled. So I started some habits myself, like doing push-ups every day and writing a short journal entry for each day, since the writing habit was promised to be the most powerful. As I started to notice that I was really able to do my push-ups more consistently than before, I wanted more of course. So I researched a little on habits and found the blog of this guy James Clear at http://jamesclear.com/. The articles he wrote blew my mind and I subscribed to his newsletter. One day he wrote a moving tribute to Scott Dinsmore who recently passed away (in September 2015). I actually remembered him from a TED talk that I had watched (http://liveyourlegend.net/tedx/) and stared as one of my favorites, but somehow never got the chance or motivation to actually check out the movement he started. With this tribute post about him, I decided to change that.

This is how I become a big fan of his movement Live Your Legend and I was eager to read every content I could get my hands on. That was the first time, I read about the ‘Start your Blog’ challenge they are having http://liveyourlegend.net/the-2016-start-a-blog-challenge/ and I instantly started to dream about having my own blog and becoming an entrepreneur. The latter was very tempting since I had some troubles at the job I recently started after having graduated from university. BUT this never happened, well until now. I finally managed to overcome my fears and thoughts like “Who would read it anyway?” and “I am a math guy, I am now writer, this is clearly not for me” and “I just don’t have the time right now, soon when things are less stressful, I will definitely participate in this blog challenge”. Well times never got less stressful, there was always something way more important than overcoming my fears of putting myself out there.

So what finally got me to start this? I actually abandoned Live Your Legend for some time but continued to be curios about life, how the brain works and read all this self-help books. Therefore I think it was a slowly growing process that let me to finally make this step and start the blog, which I still don’t fully understand. In order to do so, I am planning to post about the posts and books I have read and moments that I think let to my decision to make a change in my life (which I think starting an online blog is). As Sherlock Holmes, whom I am reading at the moment, puts it ‘Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person.’ In my opinion this holds true for any other matter than criminal cases, too. So I am planning to go ahead and stating my cases (things that I rack my brain on) to the online world.

In essence, this is blog is for me to understand how life works and breaking down the problems I have to face in live into elementary understandable pieces. Since I am a software engineer this will probably include a lot of tech related posts too. In general, I am not planing to have any theme or spending much thoughts on getting more readers or any readers for now. I will just post about what is on my mind and what I want to understand fully, anyone who is interested in the problems is welcome to read along of course.